Energy poverty should be the most important issue right now and Africa needs to fast track gas development.
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber NJ Ayuk says Nigeria’s signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill will help fast track the Country into Energy Development. He says the passing of this deal “is a game-changer with so much enthusiasm amongst the oil and gas producers.”
Cameroonian-born NJ Ayuk, who is the managing partner of Centurion Law, a pan-African corporate law conglomerate that specializes in energy, extractive industries and the financial sector, was talking to NTA News’ Business Express with discussions centred on the energy transition, investment and the role Nigeria has played to the continent.
NJ Ayuk also shared his insights on employment and enterprise in Nigeria, the recent passing of the PIB and elaborates on the road the continent needs to take to eradicate energy poverty by 2030.
Journalist: What is your opinion on the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill 2021 by the (Nigerian) National Assembly?
NJ Ayuk: It is a really good bill and good progress for Nigeria. Our industry has waited for about 13 years to have this bill; it should be done. It comes at a critical time where we are dealing with so much around the world with energy transition and how we can sit up Nigeria to move and the fast track itself into energy development. There could not have been a better incentive to really drive the oil and gas industry forward and also expand through diversification. We hope that the fast track its implementation quick.
Journalist: What do you see as the benefits of this transition because there are lots of discussions around/ what do you make of the transition for Africa?
NJ Ayuk: We have to take things into context. Africa has carbon emissions ten times lower than Europe, seventeen times less than China and twenty-one times less than the USA. You cannot get someone who has been the victim of carbon emissions to be the one paying the price and penalties. We still need time. Let us look at the bigger picture; 850 million people across the continent do not have access to clean cooking or even electricity. That is a big issue.
We need to make energy poverty the most important issue right now than ensuring that somebody in Norway or Scandinavia is happy. But we still have to look at development; we still have to drive up petrochemicals, urea, NPK, fertilizer plants so that people in Africa can feed themselves and not try to cross the Mediterranean to look for greener pastures in Europe.
If we continue producing hydrocarbon; we need to use it well and I think that is what the PIB does, if we do that, we have a fighting chance to still develop, protect the environment and still keep carbon emissions less than 1.5 degrees which we will not be hurting the environment as much as possible. Gas is going to change how we look at the future especially here in Nigeria and across Africa.
Journalist: Looking at the number of gas reserves in Nigeria, how critical is it for the oil and gas sector in Nigeria and the Africa continent to get it right.
NJ Ayuk: Nigeria is more of a gas country than an oil country. When it comes to gas you can do power plants; you cannot run industries with generators. So, you need gas for your development and you need gas for diversification. The onus is on us to see how we can attract that needed investment into the Nigerian market and around Africa because if you capture some of the gas that will be flowing in Nigeria you will do well. The most profitable Nigerian petroleum scheme has been the Nigerian LNG; it has always reported profits back-to-back. If it is working well, we should increase it.
I will even suggest that Nigeria launches another four LNG trains so that you can compete with Qatar and Russia and the potential for that is there. Sometimes we have an addiction to oil because we think it is too cheap but we need to fast track gas development because it is going to be a transition field into energy transition which is critical and let us pay attention to that.
Journalist: What is the significance of this partnership Nigeria has had with OPEC; we just celebrated fifty years?
NJ Ayuk: Fifty years of OPEC doing one thing; creating stability in the market, nobody wants volatility. When you have that it is bad for Nigeria, consumers and producers. Fifty years you have to look at it from the standpoint of the role Africans have played; the role Nigeria has played and looked at what saved the oil and gas industry; it was the declaration of cooperation of OPEC.
We need to start thinking; the past is a reference not a resident and where do we go from here between Nigeria’ relationship and OPEC; do we get more Nigerians into research, preparing ourselves for the future and what needs to be done. That is what is going to shape how OPEC works in Nigeria, how we look at the African Petroleum Producers Association.
As head of the African Chamber, one of the things I say is to use Nigerian skills which are top-notch, well-skilled. They have made some mistakes but sometimes you have to learn from those who have made mistakes than those who try to tell you they know too much. Mozambique is going to have a lot of gas, they could learn from Nigeria; same as Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola.
Journalist: You just took part in the 20th edition of the oil and gas conference exhibition, what were the major highlights from there?
NJ Ayuk: The major takeaway is we are back; the oil and gas industry is back. There has been COVID and we could not meet or talk to each other. More importantly, it was the passing of the PIB which is a game-changer. I have never seen so much enthusiasm in a room, in Nigeria with oil and gas producers. There is some excitement because there is going to be drilling in deep water and so we are going to see more gas discoveries and also there is going to be drilling in shallow waters.
Sometimes we look at how much money goes here and there but what is more important is that people are enthusiastic; people are now thinking we can do this and Nigeria needs that more than ever; coming out of COVID, coming out of a market where a lot of people lost revenue with their difficult market. Foreign investors are looking at Nigeria again and are saying we can invest in some of the new fields that are coming up and they are seeing Niger’s great market.
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